How rejection molded Mombasa’s fitness coach

Sharon Tess Akinyi in training wear PHOTO COURTESY

Mombasa,KENYA: When she joined the university to study a Bachelor of Criminology and Forensic Investigations, not even in her wildest dreams did she imagine she would turn out to be a health and fitness coach.

Just like her classmates,  Sharon Tess Akinyi, a private investigator turned health and fitness coach was looking forward to spending her life cracking the nut of hardcore cases.

Unknown to her, an experience that was to change her life was waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

One morning in 2013, Sharon saw photos of fellow students and she loved what she saw, and so she made it a point to know the photographer whom she approached at a rugby event weeks later to organize for a photo shoot.

Turns out it was affordable, Tess was ready to pose and get some stunning photos for herself but to her surprise, the photographer was really not interested in her money.He blatantly turned her offer down with a mean “No, you are not good for the camera, you are fat” and he walked away to speak to more photogenic females.

What followed for the young 20 year old campus girl was a mixture of emotions, rejection, tears, dejection, anger and an injured self-esteem. Tess felt humiliated.

Tess, however, picked herself up and started exercising, took part in campus modeling, plus size category and won.

After graduation, Tess had a brief stint in the criminology field before she quit her job to focus on her new found passion.

Sought after fitness instructor

Fast forward, Tess is one of the most sought-after health and fitness coaches in Mombasa attracting  diverse clients.

“I loved my job, I still do, by the time I was quitting my job it was actually paying me better but I decided to do that one thing that satisfies me most, which is fitness.” Says Tess when I ask why she took the risk to quit a well-paying job.

“The incident at campus pushed me to want to live a healthy and fit life. That and the increase of lifestyle diseases.” Tess responds,

Latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that about a quarter (23 percent) of Kenyan women aged 15 years and above are either underweight or obese.

The WHO also notes that 44 percent, 23 percent and up to 41 percent of diabetes, heart disease and cancer burdens respectively are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Five years down the line, Tess boasts of a toned and lean body, free from the ‘fat’ that made sure she couldn’t get what many campus going girls want, a photo shoot that would be the envy of many.

She now runs a fitness program, a program she calls Life with Tess.

The program entails meal plans and exercise routines to help women to lose weight.

Her exercise routines are majorly home workouts, workouts where you don’t need gym equipment to train but she does not rule out going to the gym.

Challenges of going to the gym

Going to the gym, however, is a concern to many women based on the notion that they are bound to build muscle.

Tess says this is not necessarily the case because she has been going to the gym for years and she does not look masculine.

Going to the gym comes with its own challenges for a woman, the pressure to deliver is one of them. The men looking down on you as a woman is also a challenge.

“You may also be subjected to sexual harassment be it physical or maybe from the way the male gym users speak of you and the comments they make,” reveals Tess.

Although this may demoralize some women to the extent of quitting the gym, she advises the ladies should not let that put them down and report any form of sexual harassment to authorities.

Also, she cautions the ladies not to lose focus on their purpose for going to the gym, Tess concedes that sometimes women go to the gym just to show off their gym attire or flaunt a curvy body.

Tess, however, is not into fitness just for herself, she knows just like her, many women have locked themselves up to cry and many have faced rejection in one way or the other due to weight issues.

It is through this program that she has been able to motivate women struggling with weight loss to live a healthy life and exercise regularly.

Motivational testimonials

Tess says she receives two to three testimonies a day from women who have enrolled to her program sharing their weight loss journey and thanking her for being such a motivation to them.

“Everyday I wake up and people are telling me “I have lost weight, I look better, I went to the doctor and he said no more high blood pressure”. Those are the things that make my heart tick.” she says.

In this internet-savvy generation, Tess uses social media to reach out to women who have lost hope in living a healthy life.

She runs a website and uses her social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to train interested parties online.

This weight loss journey, of course, came with its up and downs. At one time, she was grounded for two weeks and couldn’t walk because she sustained and injury during one of her runs.

This she says was one of her lowest moments because this meant she couldn’t train the whole time she nursed an injury.

However, in as much as one would want to challenge themselves during a workout, she advises not overdoing it to avoid injuries.

“You only have one lifetime and you only have one body, if you do not take care of your body there is no way you can live in it and health and fitness is something you have to do as an individual, no one will do it for you. The best thing you can do is to start today, you don’t have to run 10KM, you don’t even have to run, you can just walk, that is also an exercise. You don’t have to quit junk food completely, you can start by eliminating, every small effort will compound into a big haul in your life.” Her parting shot to women struggling with weight loss.